Tuesday, November 28, 2006

SWIFT-Boated: An Oregon Soldier's Nightmare

Spc Suzanne Swift is looking down the business end of what is possibly one of the ugliest stories to come out of Bush's Folly in Iraq: she's being court martialed for refusing her second tour because of sexual harassment.

Swift's claims are genuinely horrific. From news accounts they may also have merit:

Swift served with the 66th Military Police Company and was in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005. But just days before her new unit, the 54th Military Police Company, was scheduled to deploy in January 2006, Swift decided not to go back. She remained in Oregon until she was arrested by Eugene police at her mother’s home June 11.

Swift has said she was sexually harassed by her platoon leader in Iraq, coerced into a sexual relationship by her squad leader during her first deployment, and that a third sergeant made sexually suggestive comments to her after she returned to the U.S. She said she couldn’t face the thought of further harassment and went AWOL instead.

An investigation last summer into her allegations supported the stateside incident, noting that it had been properly probed and the sergeant admonished and transferred to a different unit. The investigator failed to find witnesses who could back up Swift’s allegations.

But the report did find people in her unit who believed Swift, and at least one person who confirmed that some male soldiers continuously made sexually suggestive comments.

The investigator said that he also found Swift's testimony to be convincing.

Amazing that the one guy the military awknowledges is a harasser manages to get a slap on the wrist and shuffled off somewhere to prey on other women..while Swift is the one facing court martial and confinement.

Swift was arrested last June in her mother's Eugene home. She's charged with failure to deploy and for being absent without leave.

But she wasn't charged right away. Its clear that she was held under arrest for at least a couple of months before the military even bothered to charge her:

It has been a long 60 days. While Suzanne is still wearing her jail bracelet, she does so now at Fort Lewis, where she is awaiting her fate. She will continue to do so until she is free. Suzanne's mental health is starting to deteriorate as the Army continues to keep her without charging her. (Truthout 8/10/06)

Congressman Peter DeFazio apparently initiated congressional investigation about Swift's case. I called DeFazio's office this morning to inquire about the status of that investigation and anything else DeFazio might be doing on her behalf. Their office says they'll gather up the relevant information and call/email me back with it.

Another little piece of this doesn't add up for me as well. According to the news accounts, the military and Swift's attorney have been in negotiations to resolve the situation without the court martial. They invited Swift to submit proposals to resign from the military. The submitted proposals were rejected.

Swift's camp also says that at one point, the military proposed that Swift sign a statement stating she had not been sexually assaulted in Iraq in exchange for a summary court-martial. Swift apparently refused. Officials at Fort Lewis (where Swift is held) are denying that such a proposal was offered.

The military investigator believes Swift. There are people who will back up at least parts of Swift's story and will attest to the fact that this aggressive harassment is going on. But the military wants Swift to cop a plea to get them off the hook?

These are the "brave men and women" who are supposed to be protecting us?

I'm utterly disgusted.